The Three Laws of Heresy

“Heresy!” said the tall one. “A word I’m profoundly wore off, makes my glands ache!” He looked at the other magistrate. “But this is simply that, Heresy.” Solemnly, he scowled at the student, adding “And it is also an issue I can’t ignore. I’ll report to the superiors this evening. You are dismissed.” he turned, plugged a couple of his neural cables into the wall panel, and resumed his database chanting.

Skoal was a smart pupil with a crippling lag; he always had a remarkably intelligent response, but a week or so after it was appropriate. His neural processors and cortex seemed to work only when alone and at night. This was something Skoal knew very well, and that was why he also understood why his tutor was pulling his arm, walking down the stairs with a somber aura. He rushed and followed behind him. Only after several chambers and corridors he felt it was appropriate to initiate conversation.

“I shall burn the books and my writings, magis.” he softly said as he bowed forward to make sure only Magis Tasirah heard him.

“It is a done deal now, child.” replied the tutor with the same immutable grief. “The heuristics up above are prejudicial at best. Your case will be immediately considered a major failure, you will be escorted out of the Faculty of Xenology, probably not even to another University in Stygian Theta.” he slowed down without stopping and stared at Skoal. “Even I could be labeled as heretic, especially if I inform you too much or in any way contribute to your endeavors.” he looked forward and resumed his pace. The number of priests and guards around them made an obvious choice to stop talking and keep quiet.

***

Even as they got into more public areas Skoal failed to establish a dialogue. Not when he was about to talk the magis’ elbow hit him in the ribs. A centinel appeared by the corner of the busy market road, ambient omnisensors and biosensors of student and tutor had already activated the automaton. Tasirah understood the centinel’s protocols and immediately bowed, expressed the proper command, and provided a swift prayer that was followed by Skoal. He may not be witty, but he was painfully trained as a Magis adept. The large centinel automaton that initially suspected them was already picking up other threat signals, it moved towards the new location and ignored them. After it was gone, Tasirah finished the prayer with a dark stare. Skoal, trying to calm down so his biosensors and manifest sweating. Knowing this was the last chance to keep his tutor, only ally, friend, and virtually family, he decided to shut up.

***

It was an hour or two after the meeting with the High Magus, and the resolution of Skoal’s fate. The higher authority revised the work of the Xeno-sociology student. Skoal had submitted a first draft to the Scholarium systema rete and the mere abundance of black-listed words in the manuscript was enough for enquiry. The investigation was immediately handled by High Magus Vonnegüt, chief representative of the Education branch of the United Solar Systems, called the Magisterium. Under his eyes, this was a monstrosity that couldn’t last another second in the light of what is good. The old teacher felt his guts move and his spine chill to the horror that the student proposed.

“He surely looked terrified.” — grinned the tutor.

“Yes.” — replied Skoal in immaculate apathy. Not moving a muscle, his eyes lost, and a mind rallying through an impractical maze of worries.

They were in an isolated room, disconnected from wireless networks and signals, with a humble small table between a couple of very comfy armchairs.

“They will not expel you; they will transfer you. They will take you out of Stygian Theta, most likely not to another University affiliated to the Unitas. Probably some research deployment under their jurisdiction.”

“Deployment? You mean an expedition?” snapped Skoal.

“Yes, there are plenty in the neighboring systems. I would send you to one of those if I was him. You’ll be handy for a while.” lamented the magistrate as he passed a cup of warm beverage. The words of Tasirah shocked him. Skoal knew he was confirming the common knowledge of the lifespan of a field xenologist in our stellar neighborhood, particularly if you came from the Stygian system. With his typical wits, he only managed to repeat himself.

“I shall delete the recordings, burn my books and writings.” the words echoed in the numb mind of Skoal, falling further into the fear of ‘life out there’.

“You know it is too late for that. Even without evidence, the word of a High Magus is truth in the Magisterium. We have discussed about this lack of ethical standpoint in our organization. Nevertheless, that is our shared reality. Never forget that in the Universitas Alliance, hierarchy precedes knowledge in importance.”

Skoal knew this for a fact, and during his studies he also came to realize this could be generalized to many other social organizations. Certainly, the need for order has always been the main reason why this has been the case. If so, why would the magis mention this now, thought Skoal. He stared at his tutor as he was trying to figure out the reason for this. Tasirah, a bit impatient with the usual delay, remarked bluntly:

“I’m telling you this because you failed massively. I’m wishing that this is not your early death, but a great opportunity for learning. You are good at listening and capturing key information, but you need to care about what you do and say.”

They stood there in silence.

They sat in the comfy chairs looking at their empty cups. Skoal knew his time here was scarce and felt the pressure to scheme something. The passive acceptance of Tasirah looked like he was simply waiting for the guards to take him away. He felt abandoned, a weird and new feeling for him. Magis Tasirah was the only human connection he had left, or ever even made. Not only that, but they had also shared radical conversations on the student’s studies about the growth and welfare of Phase II civilizations. Skoal thought his teacher supported him, as Tasirah implicitly approved the ongoing discussion and the productive writing of his pupil. But these were now labeled as corrupted. A typical magistrate would cut any interaction with such a student from the beginning; would not even allow such research. The fact that Tasirah was sitting there, implicitly accepting their conversation and relationship, was an important hint that he wasn’t planning to detach. Tasirah looked back at Skoal, got himself more comfortable, and slowly leaned forward.

“Go to your chambers. Encrypt only the compiled evidence, all your writings you can reproduce. Do not waste time. I’ll personally go find you when the escorting group gets here.” said Tasirah bluntly. Skoal was speechless, processing this as fast as he could, he began to stand.

“Wherever you end up, never stop your quest for truth.” added Tasirah. “Now go. We will not exchange words once they are here.”

“Magis…” mumbled Skoal but was immediately interrupted.

“Good luck, son.”

These final words were a clear signal that this conversation was over. Skoal jumped from his armchair and without looking back sprinted toward his chambers. His servo-muscle memory started sorting out the cables and data banks required to be processed. As his body moved gallantly, his human consciousness was prisoner to the thought that Tasirah would not abandon him.

“He will save this work. He will save me.” repeated to himself as if he wouldn’t believe it or wasn’t quick enough to move to the logical deductions that this implied. This could only mean to him that Stygian Prime was now host to two full dissidents. With all the despise he had for disorder and chaos; this revelry was only caused by logical deduction. It is known that intellectuals and scientist with novelties must push through their contemporaries. It is also known among the Unitas that Knowledge is the most sacred and important of all virtues. Skoal’s work remarked on the effect that a single controlling entity would have on galactic organization. Imperial societies were only effective and ethical during the transition between Phase I civilizations, known as a Type III in the Kardashev scale, and Phase II, the current category attributed to the Unity of the Empire. Skoal’s work mostly relied on gathering many sources and evidence from xeno-civilizations, particularly about inter-stellar socio-economical networks. The student’s mind was clear about the conclusion. Once a civilization moves to Phase II, and organizes in an inter-stellar network, it is better off with a decentralized organization. Usually, a society that benefited from unity to transcend its own galaxy turned to love and idealize this type of social hierarchy. Which was not common even for civilizations that are able to use all its solar system’s energy, where decentralization is preferred. The conclusion for Skoal, which he childishly called ‘The Law of Skoal’, was that Phase II societies would only be saved from doom by a disruptive change in political and economic organization. A return to true non-hierarchical ways, as it once was in our own Earth during the Information Age. All these insights took him to the heretical pit hole he was in. And even worse, they all funneled to the most important conclusion of Skoal’s research; that the demigod sitting in the Golden Throne, Emperor of Mankind, must die.

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